Anne of Geierstein, by Walter Scott

Chapter 12

- - - - Believe me, Sir;

It carries a rare form — But ’tis a spirit. —

The Tempest.

There was a short silence after the Bernese had concluded his singular tale. Arthur Philipson’s attention had been gradually and intensely attracted by a story, which was too much in unison with the received ideas of the age to be encountered by the unhesitating incredulity with which it must have been heard in later and more enlightened times.

He was also considerably struck by the manner in which it had been told by the narrator, whom he had hitherto only regarded in the light of a rude huntsman or soldier; whereas he now allowed Donnerhugel credit for a more extensive acquaintance with the general manners of the world than he had previously anticipated. The Swiss rose in his opinion as a man of talent, but without making the slightest progress in his affections. “The swash-buckler,” he said to himself, “has brains, as well as brawn and bones, and is fitter for the office of commanding others than I formerly thought him.” Then, turning to his companion, he thanked him for the tale, which had shortened the way in so interesting a manner.

“And it is from this singular marriage,” he continued, “that Anne of Geierstein derives her origin?”

“Her mother,” answered the Swiss, “was Sybilla of Arnheim, the infant at whose christening the mother died — disappeared — or whatever you may list to call it. The Baron of Arnheim, being a male fief, reverted to the Emperor. The castle has never been inhabited since the death of the last lord; and has, as I have heard, become in some sort ruinous. The occupations of its ancient proprietors, and, above all, the catastrophe of its last inhabitant, have been thought to render it no eligible place of residence.”

“Did there appear anything preternatural,” said the English-man, “about the young Baroness, who married the brother of the Landamman?”

“So far as I have heard,” replied Rudolph, “there were strange stories. It was said that the nurses, at the dead of night, have seen Hermione, the last Baroness of Arnheim, stand weeping by the side of the child’s cradle, and other things to the same purpose. But here I speak from less correct information than that from which I drew my former narrative.”

“And since the credibility of a story, not very probable in itself, must needs be granted, or withheld, according to the evidence on which it is given, may I ask you,” said Arthur, “to tell me what is the authority on which you have so much reliance?”

“Willingly,” answered the Swiss. “Know that Theodore Donnerhugel, the favorite page of the last Baron of Arnheim, was my father’s brother. Upon his master’s death he retired to his native town of Berne, and most of his time was employed in training me up to arms and martial exercises, as well according to the fashion of Germany as of Switzerland, for he was master of all. He witnessed with his own eyes, and heard with his own ears, great part of the melancholy and mysterious events which I have detailed to you. Should you ever visit Berne, you may see the good old man.”

“You think, then,” said Arthur, “that the appearance which I have this night seen is connected with the mysterious marriage of Anne of Geierstein’s grandfather?”

“Nay,” replied Rudolph, “think not that I can lay down any positive explanation of a thing so strange. I can only say, that unless I did you the injustice to disbelieve your testimony respecting the apparition of this evening, I know no way to account for it, except by remembering that there is a portion of the young lady’s blood which is thought not to be derived from the race of Adam, but more or less directly from one of those elementary spirits which have been talked of both in ancient and modern times. But I may be mistaken. We will see how she bears herself in the morning, and whether she carries in her looks the weariness and paleness of a midnight watcher. If she doth not, we may be authorized in thinking; either that your eyes have strangely deceived you, or that they have been cheated by some spectral appearance, which is not of this world.”

To this the young Englishman attempted no reply, nor was there time for any; for they were immediately afterwards challenged by the sentinel from the drawbridge.

The question, “Who goes there?” was twice satisfactorily answered, before Sigismund would admit the patrol to cross the drawbridge.

“Ass and mule that thou art,” said Rudolph, “what was the meaning of thy delay?”

“Ass and mule thyself, Hauptman,” said the Swiss, in answer to this objurgation. “I have been surprised by a goblin on my post once to-night already, and I have got so much experience upon that matter, that I will not easily be caught a second time.”

“What goblin, thou fool,” said Donnerhugel, “would be idle enough to play his gambols at the expense of so very poor an animal as thou art?”

“Thou art as cross as my father, Hauptman,” replied Sigismund, “who cries fool and blockhead at every word I speak and yet I have lips, teeth, and tongue to speak with just like other folk.”

“ We will not contest the matter, Sigismund,” said Rudolph. “It is clear, that if thou dost differ from other people, it is in a particular which thou caust be hardly expected to find out or acknowledge. But what, in the name of simplicity, is it which hath alarmed thee on thy post?”

“Marry, thus it was, Hauptman,” returned Sigismund Biederman. “I was something tired, you see, with looking up at the broad moon, and thinking what in the universe it could be made of, and how we came to see it just as well here as at home, this place being so many miles from Geierstein. I was tired, I say, of this and other perplexing thoughts, so I drew my fur cap down over my ears, for I promise you the wind blew shrill; and then I planted myself firm on my feet, with one of my legs a little advanced, and both my hands resting on my partisan, which I placed upright before me to rest upon, and so I shut mine eyes.”

“Shut thine eyes, Sigismund, and thou upon thy watch?” exclaimed Donnerhugel.

“Care not thou for that,” answered Sigismund; “I kept my ears open. And yet it was to little purpose, for something came upon the bridge with a step as stealthy as that of a mouse. I looked up with a start at the moment it was opposite to me, and when I looked up — whom think you I saw?”

“Some fool like thyself,” said Rudolph, at the same time pressing Philipson’s foot to make him attend to the answer; a hint which was little necessary, since he waited for it in the utmost agitation. Out it came at last.

“By Saint Mark, it was our own Anne of Geierstein!”

“It is impossible!” replied the Bernese.

“I should have said so too,” quoth Sigismund, “for I had peeped into her bedroom before she went thither, and it was so bedizened that a queen or a princess might have slept in it and why should the wench get out of her good quarters, with all her friends about her to guard her, and go out to wander in the forest?”

“May be,” said Rudolph, “she only looked from the bridge to see how the night waned.”

“No,” said Sigismund; “she was returning from the forest. I saw her when she reached the end of the bridge, and thought of striking at her, conceiving it to be the devil in her likeness. But I remembered my halberd is no birch switch to chastise boys and girls with; and had I done Anne any harm, you would all have been angry with me, and, to speak truth, I should have been ill pleased with myself; for although she doth make a jest of me now and then, yet it were a dull house ours were we to lose Anne.”

“Ass,” answered the Bernese, “didst thou speak to this form, or goblin as you call it?”

“Indeed I did not, Captain Wiseacre. My father is ever angry with me when I speak without thinking, and I could not at that particular moment think on anything to the purpose. Neither was there time to think, for she passed me like a snowflake upon a whirlwind. I marched into the castle after her, however, calling on her by name; so the sleepers were awakened, and men flew to their arms, and there was as much confusion as if Archibald of Hagenbach had been among us with sword and pike. And who should come out of her little bedroom, as much startled and as much in a bustle as any of us, but Mrs. Anne herself! And as she protested she had never left her room that night, why I, Sigismund Biederman, was made to stand the whole blame, as if I could prevent people’s ghosts from walking. But I told her my mind when I saw them all so set against me. ‘ And, Mistress Anne,’ quoth I, ‘it’s well known the kindred you come of; and after this fair notice, if you send any of your double-gangers 7 to me, let them put iron skull-caps on their heads, for I will give them the length and weight of a Swiss halberd, come in what shape they list.’ However, they all called, ‘Shame on me!’ and my father drove me out again, with as little remorse as if I had been the old house-dog, which had stolen in from his watch to the fireside.”

The Bernese replied, with an air of coldness approaching to contempt, ” You have slept on your watch, Sigismund, a high military offence, and you have dreamed while you slept. You were in good luck that the Landamman did not suspect your negligence, or instead of being sent back to your duty like a lazy watch-dog, you might have been scourged back like a faith less one to your kennel at Geierstein, as chanced to poor Ernest for a less matter.”

“Ernest has not yet gone back though,” said Sigismund, “and I think he may pass as far into Burgundy as we shall do in this journey. I pray you, however, Hauptman, to treat me not dog-like, but as a man, and send some one to relieve me, instead of prating here in the cold night air. If there be anything to do to-morrow, as I well guess there may, a mouthful of food, and a minute of sleep, will be but a fitting preparative, and I have stood watch here these two mortal hours.”

With that the young giant yawned portentously, as if to enforce the reason of his appeal.

“A mouthful and a minute?” said Rudolph, — “a roasted ox and a lethargy like that of the Seven Sleepers would scarce restore you to the use of your refreshed and waking senses. But I am your friend, Sigismund, and you are secure in my favorable report; you shall be instantly relieved, that you may sleep, if it be possible, without disturbances from dreams. — Pass on, young men” (addressing the others, who by this time had come up), “and go to your rest; Arthur of England and I will report to the Landamman and the Banneret the account of our patrol.”

The patrol accordingly entered the castle, and were soon beard joining their slumbering companions. Rudolph Donnerhugel seized Arthur’s arm, and, while they went towards the hall, whispered in his ear, — “These are strange passages! — How think you we should report them to the deputation?”

“That I must refer to yourself,” said Arthur; “you are the captain of our watch. I have done my duty in telling you what I saw — or thought I saw — it is for you to judge how far it is fitting to communicate it to the Landamman; only as it concerns the honor of his family, to his ear alone I think it should be confided.”

“I see no occasion for that,” said the Bernese hastily; “it cannot affect or interest our general safety. But I may take occasion hereafter to speak with Anne on this subject.”

This latter hint gave as much pain to Arthur, as the general proposal of silence on an affair so delicate had afforded him satisfaction. But his uneasiness was of a kind which he felt it necessary to suppress, and he therefore replied with as much composure as he could assume:—

“You will act, Sir Hauptman, as your sense of duty and delicacy shall dictate. For me, I shall be silent on what you call the strange passages of the night, rendered doubly wonderful by the report of Sigismund Biederman.”

“And also on what you have seen and heard concerning our auxiliaries of Bernese?” said Rudolph.

“On that I shall certainly be silent,” said Arthur; “unless thus far, that I mean to communicate to my father the risk of his baggage being liable to examination and seizure at La Ferette.”

“It is needless,” said Rudolph; “I will answer with head and hand for the safety of everything belonging to him.”

“I thank you in his name,” said Arthur; “but we are peaceful travellers, to whom it must be much more desirable to avoid a broil, than to give occasion for one, even when secure of coming out of it triumphantly.”

“These are the sentiments of a merchant, but not of a soldier,” said Rudolph, in a cold and displeased tone; “but the matter is your own, and you must act in it as you think best. Only remember, if you go to La Ferette without our assistance, You hazard both goods and life.”

They entered as he spoke, the apartment of their fellow travellers. The companions of their patrol had already laid themselves down amongst their sleeping comrades at the lower end of the room. The Landamman and the Bannerman of Berne heard Donnerhugel make a report, that his patrol, both before and after midnight, had been made in safety, and without any encounter which expressed either danger or suspicion. The Bernese then wrapped him in his cloak, and iying down on the straw, with that happy indifference to accommodation, and promptitude to seize the moment of repose, which is acquired by a life of vigilance and hardship, was in a few minutes fast asleep.

Arthur remained on foot but a little longer, to dart an ernest look on the door of Anne of Geierstein’s apartment, and to reflect on the wonderful occurrences of the evening. But they formed a chaotic mystery, for which he could see no clew, and the necessity of holding instant communication with his father compelled him forcibly to turn his thoughts in that direction. He was obliged to observe caution and secrecy in accomplishing his purpose. For this he laid himself down beside his parent, whose couch, with the hospitality which he had experienced from the beginning of his intercourse with the kind-hearted Swiss, had been arranged in what was thought the most convenient place of the apartment, and somewhat apart from all others. He slept sound, but awoke at the touch of his son, who whispered to him in English, for the greater precaution, that he had important tidings for his private ear.

“An attack on our post?” - said the elder Philipson “must we take to our weapons?”

“Not now,” said Arthur; “and I pray of you not to rise or make alarm — this matter concerns us alone.”

“Tell it instantly, my son,” replied his father; “you speak to one too much used to danger to be startled at it.”

“It is a case for your wisdom to consider,” said Arthur. “I had information while upon the patrol, that the Governor of La Ferette will unquestionably seize upon your baggage and merchandise, under pretext of levying dues claimed by the Duke of Burgundy. I have been also informed that our escort of Swiss youth are determined to resist this exaction, and conceive themselves possessed of the numbers and means sufficient to do so successfully.”

“By St. George, that must not be!” said the elder Philipson; “it would be an evil requital to the true-hearted Landamman, to give the fiery Duke a pretext for that war which the excellent old man is so anxiously desirous to avoid, if it be possible. Any exactions, however unreasonable, I will gladly pay. But to have my papers seized on were utter ruin. I partly feared this, and it made me unwilling to join myself to the Landamman’s party. We must now break off from it. This rapacious governor will not surely lay hands on the deputation which seeks his master’s court under protection of the law of nations; but I can easily see how he might make our presence with them a pretext for quarrel, which will equally suit his own avaricious spirit and the humor of these fiery young men, who are seeking for matter of offence. This shall not be taken for our sake. We will separate ourselves from the deputies, and remain behind till they are passed on. If this De Hagenbach be not the most unreasonable of men, I will find a way to content him so far as we are individually concerned. Meanwhile, I will instantly wake the Landamman,” he said, “and acquaint him with our purpose.”

This was immediately done, for Philipson was not slow in the execution of his resolutions. In a minute he was standing by the side of Arnold Biederman, who, raised on his elbow, was listening to his communication, while over the shoulder of the Landamman, rose the head and long beard of the deputy from Schwytz, his large clear blue eyes gleaming from beneath a fur cap, bent on the Englishman’s face, but stealing a glance aside now and then to mark the impression which what was said made upon his colleague.

“Good friend and host,” said the elder Philipson, “we have heard for a certainty that our poor merchandise will be subjected to taxation or seizure on our passage through La Ferette, and I would gladly avoid all cause of quarrel, for your sake as well as our own.”

“You do not doubt that we can and will protect you?” replied the Landamman. “I tell you, English man, that the guest of a Swiss is as safe by his side as an eaglet under the wings of its dam; and to leave us because danger approaches, is but a poor compliment to our courage or constancy. I am desirous of peace; but not the Duke of Burgundy himself should wrong a guest of mine, so far as my power might prevent it.”

At this the deputy from Schwytz clenched a fist like a bull’s knuckles, and showed it above the shoulders of his friend.

It is even to avoid this, my worthy host,” replied Philipson, “that I intend to separate from your friendly company sooner than I desire or purposed. Bethink you, my brave and worthy host, you are an ambassador seeking a national peace, I a trader seeking private gain. War, or quarrels which may cause war, are alike ruinous to your purpose and mine. I confess to you frankly, — that I am willing and able to pay a large ransom, and when you are departed I will negotiate for the amount. I will abide in the town of Bale till I have made fair terms with Archibald de Hagenbach; and even if he is the avaricious extortioner you describe him, he will be some what moderate with me rather than run the risk of losing his booty entirely, by my turning back, or taking another route.”

“You speak wisely, Sir Englishman,” said the Landamman “and I thank you for recalling my duty to my remembrance. But you must not, nevertheless, be exposed to danger. So soon as we move forward, the country will be again open to the devastations of the Burgundian Riders and Lanz-knechts, who will sweep the roads in every direction. The people of Bale are unhappily too timorous to protect you; they would yield you up upon the Governor’s first hint; and for justice or lenity, you might as well expect it in hell as from Hagenbach.”

“There are conjurations, it is said, that can make hell itself tremble,” said Philipson; “and I have means to propitiate even this De Hagenbach, providing I can get to private speech with him. But, I own, I can expect nothing from his wild riders, but to be put to death for the value of my cloak.”

“If that be the case,” said the Landamman, “and if you must needs separate from us, for which I deny not that you have alleged wise and worthy reasons, wherefore should you not leave Graffs-lust two hours before us? The roads will be safe, as our escort is expected; and you will probably, if you travel early, find De Hagenbach sober, and as capable as he ever is of hearing reason — that is, of perceiving his own interest. But, after his breakfast is washed down with Rhine-wein, which he drinks every morning before he hears mass, his fury blinds even his avarice.”

“All I want, in order to execute this scheme,” said Philipson, “is the loan of a mule to carry my valise, which is packed up with your baggage.”

“Take the she-mule,” said the Landamman; “she belongs to my brother here from Schwytz; he will gladly bestow her on thee.”

“If she were worth twenty crowns, and my comrade Arnold desired me to do so,” said the old whitebeard.

“I will accept her as a loan with gratitude,” said the Eng lishman “But how can you dispense with the use of the creature? You have only one left.”

“We can easily supply our want from Bale,” said the Lan damman. ‘Nay, we can make this little delay serve your purpose, Sir Englishman. I named for our time of departure the first hour after daybreak; we will postpone it to the second hour, which will give us enough of time to get a horse or mule, and you, Sir Philipson, space to reach La Ferette, where I trust you will have achieved your business with De Hagenbach to your contentment, and will join company again with us as we travel through Burgundy.”

“If our mutual objects will permit our travelling together, worthy Landamman” answered the merchant, “I shall esteem myself most happy in becoming the partner of your journey. — And now resume the repose which I have interrupted.”

“God bless you, wise and true-hearted man,” said the Landammans rising and embracing the Englishman. “Should we never meet again, I will still remember the merchant who neglected thoughts of gain, that he might keep the path of wisdom and rectitude. I know not another who would not have risked the shedding a lake of blood to save five ounces of gold. — Farewell, thou, too, gallant young man. Thou hast learned among us to keep thy foot firm while on the edge of a Helvetian crag, but none can teach thee so well as thy father, to keep an upright path among the morasses and precipices of human life.”

He then embraced and took a kind farewell of his friends, in which, as usual, he was imitated by his friend of Schwytz, who swept with his long beard the right and left cheeks of both the Englishmen, and again made them heartily welcome to the use of his mule. All then once more composed themselves to rest, for the space which remained before the appearance of the autumnal dawn.

7 Double-walkers, a name in Germany for those aerial duplicates of humanity who represent the features and appearance of other living persons.

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 12:00